Interview: I will contest HCA election, need like-minded people in my group: Mohammed Azharuddin

His comments came after a report on the widespread conflict of interest in HCA, that barred those in conflict zone from voting and contesting.

ByQaiser Mohammad Ali

Published Aug 02, 2023 | 4:45 PMUpdatedAug 03, 2023 | 11:15 AM

Mohammad Azharuddin

After a diligently prepared report on the brazen and widespread conflict of interest in Hyderabad cricket barred those in the conflict zone from voting and contesting in the upcoming Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) elections, outgoing president Mohammed Azharuddin declared that he would contest for the top position again.

He will now need fresh faces in his team as his previous team members are among those barred from contesting.

Azharuddin was elected president of HCA in 2019, after being denied an opportunity to contest in the previous election held in 2017 on seemingly specious grounds. And when he was elected president in 2019, most of his three-year tenure was consumed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the rest of the time, he was left defending a spate of court cases that were unleashed against him, directly or indirectly.

Azharuddin’s team members — who were elected as the five office-bearers in 2019 — ironically went against him when he sought transparency from them on multiple issues, including that of corruption. They were: Vice-president K John Manoj, secretary R Vijayanand, joint secretary Naresh Sharma, treasurer Surender Agarwal, and councillor P Anuradha.

All of them have been barred by the scathing report of the Supreme Court-appointed one-man committee of retired apex court Justice L Nageswara Rao, issued on 31 July.

Before Justice Rao’s appointment, the Supreme Court had appointed, in August last year, a four-member Supervisory Committee to look into the HCA imbroglio. It was headed by retired chief justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court Nisar Ahmed Kakru, Telangana DGP Anjani Kumar, and former India/Hyderabad cricketers SL Venkatapathi Raju and Vanka Pratap.

In an exclusive interview with South First, Azharuddin gave credit to Justice Kakru’s committee as well.

He also noted that the advantage that Justice Rao enjoyed was that he had played competitive cricket at a certain level and since he is also from the undivided Andhra Pradesh (from Guntur district), he was well aware of the happenings in the HCA. Edited excerpts from the interview:

Q. How do you look at Justice L Nageswara Rao’s order on HCA? How do you assess it?

A. It’s a very good order. They have done a thorough investigation before coming out with this report. So, I’m very happy with it.

I think it should have happened long back. I’ve been working on this [issue of conflict of interest] for many years because these things were happening — things were not going right — when I became the president.

I have always believed that when you are working, you should work together, for the betterment of the game. It had become like a monopoly for these clubs [affiliated to the HCA]. And people from these clubs, who used to occupy the top HCA posts like president, vice-president, etc, have been banned.

Nobody from outside of these clubs could become an HCA office-bearer. It was a monopoly. But now they have done the right thing. I am very happy, very pleased with the order.

Q. Were you anticipating or expecting this kind of order?

A. I was expecting that things would improve because Justice Rao knew everything since he has also played cricket in [the undivided] Andhra Pradesh.

So, he knows the game, and the problems in it from a long time, and not just now. So, yes, I was expecting this order.

I must also applaud the Supreme Court-appointed Supervisory Committee [which preceded Justice Rao’s appointment] for giving a deep analysis of what has been happening in Hyderabad cricket in their report. So, they did a very good job as well.

And a thorough investigation has been done by Justice Rao. Now everybody will know what has been happening in Hyderabad cricket for so many years.

Interview: I was opposed for initiating reforms at HCA, says Azharuddin

Q. Justice Rao carries an impeccable image and is widely considered to be an honest person. Did this facet of his personality help people trust him more?

A. Of course. When you are an honest person you become a judge, not just like that. He has vast experience. Obviously, he has an impeccable record and has played cricket as well. So, there are no doubts on those counts.

Q. Did you also anticipate or expect that Justice Rao would bar so many club officials from contesting the HCA election due to conflict of interest?

A. I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t predict anything. But an investigation was done into the clubs affiliated with the HCA; still, I couldn’t predict the result, as to what exactly was going to happen.

But I knew that something was going to happen because the report that was submitted to the Supreme Court by the Supervisory Committee had a lot of things about what was happening in Hyderabad.

It was a very elaborate report. Although it was only a 20-25-page report, it had everything in it. And I must applaud Justice Rao for giving so much time to this investigation because he is a busy man. We all must thank him for whatever he has done.

Q. Did Justice Rao also meet you?

A. I met him just once, initially. That was it.

Q. It is clear from the 46-page Justice Rao order that conflict of interest has been widespread in Hyderabad cricket. Is there anything in the order that you were not aware of?

A. I knew most of the things — the conflict of interest, and a lot of people who were owning companies and wanted to become HCA office-bearers.

When you own a company and suddenly you want to become a cricket administrator, it is a conflict of interest — it is not possible, it’s very difficult.

I was aware that the Lodha Committee had submitted the report to the Supreme Court that included conflict of interest as well, and the report was taken very seriously by the court.

The Supreme Court took action as a lot of instances of conflict of interest were there. Now, everybody knows what a conflict of interest is.

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Q. What are the other main issues in Hyderabad cricket at the moment, apart from conflict of interest?

A. Conflict of interest is the main issue. When you have a monopoly going, and when you have the same group of people coming back again and again into administration, it is not very good for the game.

It created a lot of confusion. And then everybody felt that cricket aise hi hota hai, aise hi hota rahega (cricket will continue to be administered like this). Somebody had to do something. I felt that it was not right and I did something and I’m very happy that something has happened.

Q. What kind of reactions have you received so far from Hyderabad?

A. The reaction is very good. Now there will be single voters in HCA elections and I am very, very happy about that.

Q. What is your plan now vis-à-vis HCA?

A. I will contest the election for the president’s post. The elections are going to happen in September and I am going to run again for the same position.

Q. Would you now have a new team?

A. Yes, because all the people who were there earlier have been barred from contesting and appearing [read: voting in the upcoming elections].

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Q. So, will having a new team be a bigger challenge for you than the last time?

A. Last time was a big challenge. We had so many problems. Of our three-year tenure, we lost two years to Coronavirus, and we could work only in the last year.

And in that one-year period, we could work partially as the Supervisory Committee had come in. But I’m very happy that with so many problems we managed to organise two international matches in Hyderabad very, very successfully.

Most of the time, the problem was that when a little thing happened, people would approach the courts. At one point, it looked like the cricket was being played in the courts by the HCA. Now, hopefully, things will change.

Q. I’ll ask this again: Would you have a bigger challenge this time?

A. Challenges are always there. For every plan, you have a challenge.

Q. What would be your approach to the HCA elections this time?

A. We want to work for the people. I would like to have like-minded people who really want to take the game forward. That is more important than anything else.

(The writer has covered cricket for over three decades, based in Delhi. He tweets at @AlwaysCricket)